Brett Ballard, who has been involved with Kansas University’s basketball program as a player and staff member the last 10 years, today takes his expertise over to neighboring Baker University.
Ballard, 30, who played for the Jayhawks’ 2002 Final Four team and has been a fixture in KU’s hoops offices ever since, will be named BU’s head hoops coach today and be formally introduced at a reception Tuesday.
Those who work with KU’s director of basketball operations on a daily basis say he’ll be missed.
“I mean, he is probably one of the most respected individuals in our program,” KU junior guard Brady Morningstar said.
“I’ve been around him awhile. He loves this program as much as anybody else does, if not more. He played under coach (Roy) Williams and stayed here under coach (Bill) Self and moved his way up to where he is now, the director of basketball. He’s done a darn good job in every area,” Morningstar added.
Ballard oversees the academic progress of the Jayhawks, works closely with the offseason strength and conditioning program and assists with on-campus recruiting, team travel and team video. He’s also director for Bill Self’s basketball camps and directs the coaches clinic, winter clinic and Special Olympics clinic.
“He loves KU. He is all about the Jayhawks. He’s been here, raised around here,” KU red-shirt senior Mario Little said of Hutchinson native Ballard.
“He does a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff,” Little added. “He’s not on the coaching staff, doesn’t do the scouting report, but makes sure everything gets done. He makes sure the program runs smooth. He works hard and loves being around the game of basketball.”
Ballard won’t be moving out of his Allen Fieldhouse office soon. He reportedly will start at Baker on July 1 after KU’s camp season is over.
Obviously, he’ll do some recruiting and planning for Baker’s program in the interim.
This will mark Ballard’s first official coaching position.
“He’d make a great coach, because he’s been around the game, first,” Little said. “Second, look at who his mentors are around here. You’ve got coach Self, (Joe) Dooley, (Danny) Manning, (Kurtis) Townsend, all those guys. He’s getting helped by the best minds.”
Ballard replaces Rick Weaver, who has announced his retirement after 25 years as Wildcat coach.
Collins a Naismith finalist
KU senior guard Sherron Collins on Sunday was named one of four finalists for the 2010 Naismith Trophy as the men’s college player of the year. Other finalists: Kentucky’s John Wall, Ohio State’s Evan Turner and Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson.
“There are so many great players out there, to be selected as one of the top four for this honor is huge,” Collins said. “There is no way I could have made this list without my teammates and coaches. We had a great season that ended on a sour note.”
“It’s an unbelievable honor to be picked in the final four,” KU coach Self said. “Sherron is very deserving, not only based on what he did this year but over his career. Certainly, our loss to Northern Iowa shouldn’t diminish the year he had and the leader he has been. I’m excited for him and very proud of him.”
The finalists were voted on by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s National Voting Academy, comprised of leading basketball journalists, coaches and administrators from around the country. The academy based its criteria on player performances this season.
Collins is the first Jayhawk to be selected as a Naismith Trophy finalist since KU consensus All-American Wayne Simien in 2005. KU legend and current assistant coach Danny Manning won the Naismith Trophy in 1988.
Besides Manning in 1988, other notable men’s college player-of-the-year winners include Ralph Sampson (1981-1983), Larry Bird (1979), Patrick Ewing (1985), Christian Laettner (1992) and last year’s winner, Blake Griffin of Oklahoma.
With KU’s season over, here’s a quick look at next year’s roster.
The Jayhawks lose senior guard Collins to graduation and are expected to lose freshman guard Xavier Henry and junior center Cole Aldrich to the NBA. So far, one high school signee has been added — 6-3 combo guard Royce Woolridge of Sunnyslope High in Phoenix. KU also is in the mix for Josh Selby, a 6-2 point guard from Lake Clifton High in Baltimore, who is Rivals.com’s No. 4-rated player.
KU is also involved with No. 1-ranked Brandon Knight, a 6-3 guard from Pine Crest High in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Doron Lamb, a 6-4 guard from Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va. Lamb is ranked No. 21 overall by Rivals.com
KU returns starters Tyshawn Taylor and Marcus Morris, as well as reserves Morningstar, Tyrel Reed, Markieff Morris, Thomas Robinson, Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey.
Red-shirts Little and Travis Releford will be back in the mix for significant minutes. Walk-ons Conner Teahan, Chase Buford and Jordan Juenemann will return, with walk-on C.J. Henry recently saying he had no idea what the future would hold.
One would expect the Jayhawks to be ranked somewhere in the Top 25 to begin the season, the exact slot likely depending on what happens the rest of the way in recruiting.